Long-time law officer to work in Kosovo

Published 6:00 am Saturday, February 10, 2001

MONTICELLO — Seven hundred years of internal conflict andseveral decades of Communist rule have nearly destroyed thewar-torn province of Kosovo, but the people continue to strive forthe best among the racial and religious battles. Into thismaelstrom of chaos, one Lawrence County man goes to help bringorder to the struggling people.

Billy Murray joined more than 40 other law officers from acrossthe United States Tuesday, Feb. 6, as the latest additions to theinternational effort to restore law to the people of Kosovo. Murrayhas served as a deputy in Lawrence and Lincoln counties since1979.

“What we’re doing over there is teaching them democratic lawenforcement,” Murray said. “They’ve been under Communist rule forso long things are not as they should be.”

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Murray joined the Kosovo International Police Task Force throughDynCorp Technical Services, a technical service contractor to theState Department. Once in Kosovo, Murray will join the UnitedNations Civilian Police (CivPol).

“In cooperation with Allied Nations, the U.S. has been involvedin assisting previously non-democratic countries in the transitionfrom old regimes to democratic societies,” said Pascal J. Budge,senior recruiter for the task force, in a recruiting letter. “Lawenforcement training will be provided . . . with the goal ofassisting inexperienced officers in establishing credibility andprofessionalism. . .”

The former Lincoln County deputy said he had been consideringjoining CivPol for about a year, but felt that it was something hehad to do.

“It’s like a calling,” Murray said. “Every time I would manageto forget about it someone would mention it and make me think aboutit again.”

He was surprised by how easy it was to join, he said, despitethe tight qualifications needed and the limited number of peoplechosen each year. He said he submitted his resume to DynCorp overthe internet one night at 10 p.m. and by 10 a.m. the next day theyhad responded, seeking more information and approval to begin thebackground checks.

“They liked my years of experience,” Murray said.

The former deputy’s career started in Lawrence County in 1979under Sheriff Earl Smith and he served here until 1991.

In 1993, he returned to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Departmentunder Duane “Doc” Bradford. He moved back to Lincoln County in 1995and was hired by Sheriff Lynn Boyte.

Murray returned to Lawrence County under Sheriff Willie Mullinsin 1997. When Mullins was defeated for reelection, Murray was onceagain in Lincoln County under Boyte in January 2000.

Murray said that to even be considered for the CivPol job anapplicant is required to have a minimum of eight years of full-timepolice service with patrol and training experience, has to be onactive duty or retired within the last three years, have anunblemished background record and excellent health withouttemporary or permanent disabilities.

“They talked to the Internal Affairs Division of every sheriff’soffice I ever worked with during a detailed background check thattook more than three months to complete,” Murray said. “The thingthat scared me most was the psychological test — it was like abook.

“It’s an honor to put on that uniform and go over there,” hesaid. “You have to be a credible person to be accepted forthis.”

Once in Kosovo, Murray could be assigned to five differentlocations in the province. Whichever assignment he gets, however,he will be teamed with another international officer, two Kosovopolice officers and an interpreter. They will work 30 12-hour daysand then be off for one week.

“I’m hoping to be in the investigative division over there,” hesaid.

The worst crime plaguing the province is arson, according toMurray, and he believes his 10 years as an arson investigator willgive him an edge.

The continuing violence in the war-torn province and the amountof undisposed explosives still being cleared from the area does notworry him. His philosophy is simple — trust in God.

“I’m as at peace about going over there as I’ve felt on any jobI’ve ever had,” Murray said. “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant tobe. I’ve been sniped at twice and had my house shot up once anddidn’t get hurt. When it’s your time, it’s your time.”

Murray’s wife, Anita, said the violence does concern her, butshe isn’t overly worried about her husband.

“I worry about him going over there, but I know he can take careof himself. Billy’s a survivor,” she said. “I respect and admirehim for wanting to do this. I’m biting my lip because I’m sorry tosee him go, but he feels in his heart that this is something heneeds to do.”

Murray said his tour in Kosovo is for one year, but he mayextend another six months. Anita can fly over and visit as often asshe likes after the first six months, but his children can’t, hesaid.

The former deputy said he is not sure of his plans once hereturns. At the end of the tour many of the returning CivPolofficers are offered a federal job, such as with the FBI, butMurray said he has a more local goal to consider.

“That’s been one of my dreams all my life — to be sheriff ofLawrence County,” he said.

In the days before his departure, he said, he was inundated withcalls from his friends in law enforcement throughout the area andfrom the community.

“I know it means a lot to him, but it means a lot to me, too,because I know he has their support. It makes me feel as if I’m notso alone,” Anita said. “There’s a lot of good people in thiscommunity.”